'Those I Left Behind' is a film about family
By Alvaro F. Fernandez
Family and friends are so
important. And with 2006 nearing its end, it is the time of year one gets
together with them in order to enjoy their company and celebrate the good things
In my case, good friends, and
I have few, at times are as important, or as close, as any family member. It's
why I am so picky as to who they are. It is also another reason for my
indignation with the Bush Administration measures limiting family visits to Cuba
and defining who a family member could be.
Last week I mentioned that the
Cuban Commission for Family Rights was created to combat these cruel regulations
imposed by the Bush administration in June, 2004. Among our many projects has
been a film demonstrating the pain caused by measures which limit visits to
Cuban family members to only once every three years, no matter the circumstance
– even the death, or possibility of death, of a loved one.
The film project was turned
over to Miami filmmaker Lisandro Perez Rey. What he delivered was a poignant 45
minute documentary which shows the hardships of four Cuban families and how they
deal with the grief of family separation across and beyond the Florida Straits.
The film, titled 'Those I Left Behind', is powerful. It shows how the past
40-some years have been tough on many Cuban families. It demonstrates that
anyone who would stoop so low as to use families to accomplish political goals
does not have any regard for human rights.
The film and its protagonists
are critical of both the U.S. and Cuban governments. I believe everyone should
see it and arrive at his or her own conclusions.
At this moment in time,
though, what the Commission seeks is the undoing of the regulations -- measures
which over a more than two year period of time have caused great pain for too
many. One example cited shows Marlene, a young and single mom who lives in
Miami, who is not able to help with a very sick mother in Cuba who must care for
her schizophrenic sister. Her mother also dealt with a father who suffered from
Alzheimer's disease. There is also the case of Sergeant Carlos Lazo, probably
the star of the film, who risked life and limb for the U.S. in Iraq but was not
allowed to visit two sons in Cuba while on leave before heading to the battle of
Fallujah where he was decorated for his bravery.
In the end, it is a film about
family and not politics. It demonstrates why family should never become a
pawn of any political maneuvering – something that was done by the 2004 Bush
As I write this column I am
glad to hear that Lisandro's film has been accepted and will be shown during the
2007 Miami Film Festival. Congratulations to the festival organizers. It is yet
another sign, as I mentioned in my column last week regarding the collection of
groups known as the Cuban Consensus who came out against the measures, that
people in Miami have woken up to the reality of this terrible injustice wrought
by the Bush Administration. I hope the film helps in finally pushing the
regulations, which have not resulted in anything positive since they were
imposed in 2004, into the abyss of the ocean which separates Cubans on both
sides of the Straits.
I must also mention my
disappointment with the organizers of the Havana Film Festival (Festival
Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano) who turned down "Those I Left
Behind" for this year's event currently going on in the Cuban capital.
As for the film, if you have a
chance, go see it at the Miami Festival in March or at any of the private
screenings in universities and other places around the U.S.